** Glen Barry: Economic Collapse and Global Ecology


Richard Moore


Economic Collapse and Global Ecology
Glen Barry

Given widespread failure to pursue policies sufficient to reverse deterioration 
of the biosphere and avoid ecological collapse, the best we can hope for may be 
that the growth-based economic system crashes sooner rather than later

Humanity and the Earth are faced with an enormous conundrum -- sufficient 
climate policies enjoy political support only in times of rapid economic growth.
Yet this growth is the primary factor driving greenhouse gas emissions and other
environmental ills. The growth machine has pushed the planet well beyond its 
ecological carrying capacity, and unless constrained, can only lead to human 
extinction and an end to complex life.

With every economic downturn, like the one now looming in the United States, it 
becomes more difficult and less likely that policy sufficient to ensure global 
ecological sustainability will be embraced. This essay explores the possibility 
that from a biocentric viewpoint of needs for long-term global ecological, 
economic and social sustainability; it would be better for the economic collapse
to come now rather than later.

Economic growth is a deadly disease upon the Earth, with capitalism as its most 
virulent strain. Throw-away consumption and explosive population growth are made
possible by using up fossil fuels and destroying ecosystems. Holiday shopping 
numbers are covered by media in the same breath as Arctic ice melt, ignoring 
their deep connection. Exponential economic growth destroys ecosystems and 
pushes the biosphere closer to failure.

Humanity has proven itself unwilling and unable to address climate change and 
other environmental threats with necessary haste and ambition. Action on coal, 
forests, population, renewable energy and emission reductions could be taken now
at net benefit to the economy. Yet, the losers -- primarily fossil fuel 
industries and their bought oligarchy -- successfully resist futures not 
dependent upon their deadly products.

Perpetual economic growth, and necessary climate and other ecological policies, 
are fundamentally incompatible. Global ecological sustainability depends 
critically upon establishing a steady state economy, whereby production is 
right-sized to not diminish natural capital. Whole industries like coal and 
natural forest logging will be eliminated even as new opportunities emerge in 
solar energy and environmental restoration.

This critical transition to both economic and ecological sustainability is 
simply not happening on any scale. The challenge is how to carry out necessary 
environmental policies even as economic growth ends and consumption plunges. The
natural response is going to be liquidation of even more life-giving ecosystems,
and jettisoning of climate policies, to vainly try to maintain high growth and 
personal consumption.

We know that humanity must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% over 
coming decades. How will this and other necessary climate mitigation strategies 
be maintained during years of economic downturns, resource wars, reasonable 
demands for equitable consumption, and frankly, the weather being more pleasant 
in some places? If efforts to reduce emissions and move to a steady state 
economy fail; the collapse of ecological, economic and social systems is 

Bright greens take the continued existence of a habitable Earth with viable, 
sustainable populations of all species including humans as the ultimate truth 
and the meaning of life. Whether this is possible in a time of economic collapse
is crucially dependent upon whether enough ecosystems and resources remain post 
collapse to allow humanity to recover and reconstitute sustainable, relocalized 

It may be better for the Earth and humanity's future that economic collapse 
comes sooner rather than later, while more ecosystems and opportunities to 
return to nature's fold exist. Economic collapse will be deeply wrenching -- 
part Great Depression, part African famine. There will be starvation and civil 
strife, and a long period of suffering and turmoil.

Many will be killed as balance returns to the Earth. Most people have forgotten 
how to grow food and that their identity is more than what they own. Yet there 
is some justice, in that those who have lived most lightly upon the land will 
have an easier time of it, even as those super-consumers living in massive 
cities finally learn where their food comes from and that ecology is the meaning
of life. Economic collapse now means humanity and the Earth ultimately survive 
to prosper again.

Human suffering -- already the norm for many, but hitting the currently 
materially affluent -- is inevitable given the degree to which the planet's 
carrying capacity has been exceeded. We are a couple decades at most away from 
societal strife of a much greater magnitude as the Earth's biosphere fails. 
Humanity can take the bitter medicine now, and recover while emerging better for
it; or our total collapse can be a final, fatal death swoon.

A successful revolutionary response to imminent global ecosystem collapse would 
focus upon bringing down the Earth's industrial economy now. As society 
continues to fail miserably to implement necessary changes to allow creation to 
continue, maybe the best strategy to achieve global ecological sustainability is
economic sabotage to hasten the day. It is more fragile than it looks.

Humanity is a marvelous creation. Yet her current dilemma is unprecedented. It 
is not yet known whether she is able to adapt, at some expense to her comfort 
and short-term well-being, to ensure survival. If she can, all futures of 
economic, social and ecological collapse can be avoided. If not it is better 
from a long-term biocentric viewpoint that the economic growth machine collapse 
now, bringing forth the necessary change, and offering hope for a planetary and 
human revival.

I wish no harm to anyone, and want desperately to avoid these prophesies 
foretold by ecological science. I speak for the Earth, for despite being the 
giver of life, her natural voice remains largely unheard over the tumult of the 
end of being.

newslog archives: 

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How We the People can change the world:

The Post-Bush Regime: A Prognosis

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